Anthony Giddens's Duality of Structure in Sociology

Anthony Giddens’ duality of structure denotes a structure which is both constraining and enabling to the actions of people. Structure is to be understood as the social rules and resources which influence situational action and it is a property of social systems. A system is a recognizable, reproduced pattern of relations between people which are organized as social practice.

Structure places rules upon people, thus limiting their personal agency for action, but their motivations for action is then positively defined within that structure. Social sanctions influence interpersonal communication and interaction and thus norms are created as a property of the system. Social norms delineate what is socially unacceptable, but also by definition inform actors of acceptable behavior. This is clearly spelled out for a whole society; interaction may be carried out with greater ease because of the enabling forces of structure, as actions may be legitimated according to norms. According to a structure, action was produced. Power is a structural resource which may be transacted within interactions and it clearly gives rise to the structure of domination, which is a limiting factor to some. However, people are also enabled in their actions according to how much power they have.

Thus, structure is part of the motivation for action and it then becomes the consequence of action as well. Norms are replicated and reified through continual, active observance. Rules cannot exist without the agency of action for people, and people’s agencies recurrently strengthen those rules. Structure for Giddens is therefore not a static concept within which we can study social behavior, but rather a dynamic and ongoing process.

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